Within Paulina Olowska’s practice, industry, leisure, and socialist symbolism occupy the same visual and cultural space. Her realist paintings, drawings, and collages borrow imagery from Eastern European and American popular culture creating a cross cultural reference that is evident throughout her practice, whilst engaging with the concepts of consumerism, feminism, and design. The outward appearance of Olowska’s female subjects is equally as important as the historical memories interwoven seamlessly throughout her collages and paintings. Olowska’s treatment of her subject’s materialization acts as a direct display of the spirit of the individual, which is likely to be contrasted against a uniformed surrounding reminiscent of life experienced behind the iron curtain.
Olowska’s affinity with performance based art accounts for much of her appreciation. Most notably is Alphabet (2005), her adaptation of Czech designer Karel Teige's typographic book ABECEDA. Presented at MoMA in 2012, performers mould their bodies to affix the letters of the alphabet, forgetting conventional forms to construct a new system of meaning. At the heart of Olowska’s artistic practice is her collaborative work, lending a platform to her contemporaries who are underrepresented. Demonstrating the disjunction of time and cultural impermeability of Eastern Europe, Olowska’s multi-faceted oeuvre establishes a dialogue with the past; she calls upon forms recognizable from multiple collective histories of modernism to adhere with an invented contemporary environment.
Paulina Olowska: Destroyed Woman
Artist Paulina Olowska invited Frieze Magazine into her studio at the Villa Kadenowka earlier this summer, providing a background for her show ‘Destroyed Woman’ at Simon Lee Gallery, London.
‘What is maybe considered a leftover or a dumb story, could actually have a hidden meaning’, says artist Paulina Olowska. In this video, filmed in in Rabka-Zdroj, Poland around the artist’s studio and the Villa Kadenowka, a 1930s villa she has transformed into a space for artists events, Olowska discusses the complex relations of her practice to art history, tradition, place, dress and processes of mediation.
Revealing the rich diversity of her work and expression, the video includes footage of Olowska excavating fabric she had buried in the ground near Kadenowka, which have been incorporated into a sculpture displayed in ‘Destroyed Woman’. Its title a reference to a pivotal text by feminist philosopher Simone de Beauvoir, Olowska explains her particular concern for making room for vulnerability in the representation of female experience. ‘I’m tired of calling women ‘strong’ and “superwoman”', she says, 'there is still a sense of doing a lot for female place in culture’.
The exhibition is on view till 16 November.
Paulina Olowska, Natalia Sielewicz and Elisabeth Lebovici in conversation with Clément Dirié
Paulina Olowska performance: Abeceda (after Milca Mayerova)
Paulina Olowska’s performance is inspired by the book entitled ABECEDA by Karel Teige - a key figure of the Czech avant-garde who created the experimental “moving alphabet” in 1926 in cooperation with Milca Mayerova.
Paulina Olowska: Destroyed Woman Curated by Clément Dirié
Paulina Olowska’s exhibition at Simon Lee Gallery, London, constitutes the latest chapter in the artist’s continuous and fertile research into image-making, exploring the ways in which she interprets painting as a vehicle for her idiosyncratic visions and as a facilitator for the exchange of feelings and sensations with the viewer. Spanning the gallery’s three floors, Destroyed Woman puts forward a visual and emotional landscape through which to contemplate the self and the other, provoking our consideration of themes such as womanhood, ageing, the power of tradition and the spectator’s gaze. With this exhibition Olowska invites us to thoroughly re-contemplate representations of women, particularly within an art historical context, and to redefine the purpose of their portraiture; how, she asks, can we reformulate tradition to encompass what has been destroyed and what needs to be invented?
In Olowska’s latest series of paintings female figures are captured posing, working or acting in diverse backgrounds. For the most part they are represented alone, engrossed in their own thoughts or activities. They watch us, watching them, all of us absorbed in both past and future.
En Plein Air
Simon Lee Gallery, London, is pleased to present En Plein Air, bringing together works by artists who seek to reinterpret the artistic tradition of painting outdoors for a contemporary audience. The plein air approach has been prevalent since the mid-19th century, although it gained traction in the 1860s as a practice essential to the development of the Impressionist movement. While artists had long painted from observation to create preparatory sketches or studies, during this period the plein air method led to a naturalistic style that threw out the academic rulebook in the pursuit of formal and compositional spontaneity. The artists included in En Plein Air are united by a desire to refresh the audience’s interpretation of outdoor painting, whether via landscapes or portraits, photography or painting, figuration or abstraction, and in this way, the exhibition explores scenes of the outdoors in relation to contemporary studio practice.
Mauvaises Herbes: Sarah Crowner, Caitlin Keogh, Paulina Olowska
Simon Lee Gallery Hong Kong is pleased to present an exhibition of new work by three artists whose links of friendship and common interest contrast sharply with their widely divergent approaches to painting, strategies of image making and the relation of narrative content in their work to the field of abstraction and figuration.
An Uncanny Likeness
Simon Lee Gallery is pleased to present An Uncanny Likeness, a group exhibition organized by Franklin Melendez and Romain Dauriac in the newly re-launched New York space.
The show revisits the legacy of portrait painting bringing together a diverse group of artists whose practice revolves around the re-drawing of the figure. Eschewing the ‘faithful reproduction’ as convention, these artists pursue emotive distortion and stylistic idiosyncrasies that foreground painting’s relationship to the body. The resulting tableaux are thick with symbolic meaning, conjuring altered states and arcane visions that are as indebted to the virtuosic flourishes of Mannerist painters as the elastic possibilities of present day visualizing techniques.
Simon Lee Gallery is proud to present ‘Faux Amis’, a group exhibition that centres on the dialogue between the work of gallery artists and their chosen ‘false friend’.
For this, the first exhibition to cover both the ground and the new first floor spaces of the London gallery, Simon Lee Gallery artists are invited to exhibit alongside, and in dialogue with, the work of an artist of their choice which they find forges a relevant, interesting, distracting, misleading, or stimulating relationship with their own practice. The resultant selection of works not only highlights the interesting discourses that can exist between artists of divergent practices and generations, but also suggests new readings of the individual works on display.